The Cleveland Browns want to have their cake and eat yours, too.
As Brent Larkin of Cleveland.com reported today, the Browns and the Columbus business community want Ohio taxpayers to pay for a new Browns training camp facility in Columbus. (Read the full article and see the public documents here.)
Yes, the Browns want to charge state taxpayers $5 million to move training camp from Berea to Columbus. No, that's not a joke.
Larkin's reporting of the matter is exceptional. As he explains, the Browns and the Columbus Partnership "quietly added" the request for the funds for an "athletic practice training facility" to a biennial state capital improvements bill, which is scheduled for introduction in late March or early April.
As the article explains, the Columbus Partnership, made up of leaders from 50 of the city's biggest corporations, is taking the lead role in asking for the funds. However, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam knows and approves of the move.
As Larkin writes:
"It then describes the project this way: "The Athletic Practice and Training Facility will serve as a backdrop for collegiate athletic teams and community youth programs to utilize throughout the year. It will also attract professional athletic teams and franchises to our region."
Translated: We're going to disguise this as a tax request to help kids, but it's really about the Browns.
Some defenders of the deal -- and there are precious few -- argue the practice and training facility would also be used by other groups. But that's not enough lipstick to make this pig the least bit attractive.
The fact is, but for the Browns agreeing to move, the training facility doesn't get built.
Capital improvement projects are funded by Ohio taxpayers. The state issues bonds to pay for construction projects it deems worthy and uses tax dollars to retire the bonds."
The Browns have been working on moving training camp to Columbus for some time now. The team hosted an intrasquad scrimmage in Ohio Stadium last August, attracting 50,000 fans.
Most other NFL teams hold training camp far away from their home cities, but a 120-mile distance between Cleveland and Columbus is a bit of a stretch.
The Browns seem to have no qualms about the proposed move, despite the city of Berea's devotion to the team. As Larkin writes, the city has given the team $25 million in incentives since 1991, including building a rent-free facility for the Browns. Also, as Larkin says:
"Taxpayers will also shell out $14 million to $15 million for a major renovation and expansion planned at the headquarters. In return, Berea splits player income taxes with Cleveland and keeps 100 percent of the nonplayer income taxes."
Browns VP of Communications Peter John-Baptiste told Cleveland.com the team is looking at all of its options to move the site of training camp, and Columbus is one of the choices.
At a most basic level, the Browns want to move training camp to Columbus and force taxpayers all across the state of Ohio (not just Columbus) to foot the bill for a new facility.
What a sham.